Legendary chopper craftsmen Paul Teutul Sr and Paul Teutul Jr have set out to regain their place as the kings of customised bike building. With A-list celebrities and world famous athletes as clients, millions of pounds and their brands’ reputations are on the line with every signature build.
Now the estranged duo also hope to reconcile their infamously fractured relationship in the new series of American Chopper: the father-son team vow to begin a new chapter and put the past behind them, but now that Paul Jr has a son of his own, there are more parties involved.
Will the Teutuls’ chopper businesses continue to survive, or will their complicated father-son relationship pose a threat to their shops?
What was the baddest bike you ever rode?
Paul Sr: One of the cool bikes that I... it’s not my favourite bike, but as far as I could ride, it was the Aragon bike, which is a real cool bike. But I enjoyed riding that bike.
Where does your passion for bikes come from?
Paul Sr: It was the early 1970s and the reason for that is I had a partner in the steel business – steel fabricating business – that I had for 26 years. And he was a guy that was totally into bikes. And because we had the steel shop, we were able to do things other people couldn’t do. What was unique about him is he didn’t buy a bike. He built it from the ground up. So, he did the frame. He pretty much handcrafted everything and that’s really where I got my inspiration from.
Are young buyers still into choppers?
Paul Sr: Everything is a trend. And yeah – I mean, we just did a really nice cafe racer. So, it’s kind of like – for me, going to that style is refreshing from building the wide-tyre bike. It’s more traditional. Personally I ride a chopper. That’s all I ride. I do have quite a few Harleys, but I choose to ride a chopper and that’s what I’ve been riding all my life.
British bikes – are they as good as choppers or do they just leak oil all over the shop?
Paul Jr: Well, it’s not just British bikes. A lot of different bikes leak oil, especially the older bikes. But I, personally, am pretty fond of Triumph motorcycles. I don’t know that they make great choppers for me, personally, but I do feel like they make a great bike. And I like the way they look, you know?
If you had to recommend a bike to someone who is getting their first bike ever, which bike would you choose, and why?
Paul Jr: Well, first of all, I think it would depend on the guy. First of all, if he’s a big guy, I might recommend a full-sized Harley or maybe a Goldwing, depending on what he likes. If he’s a smaller guy, I might suggest a Triumph or a... or just a smaller, more nimble bike, more manageable. I have found that sometimes, people try and start on smaller bikes and they very quickly outgrow them once they learn to ride.
So, if you could manage a larger bike, it’s a better way to go. A little bit of more horsepower, you’re going to want that, I think, long term. Especially if you’re riding with a group, then you want to keep up. So, I don’t think there’s a cut-and-dried answer. I think it would be really specific to the individual.
Does it make sense to start customising bikes these days, and what’s left to surprise people with?
Paul Jr: Yeah. That’s a good question. I mean for me, yes, I – the way I build motorcycles is with a theme. So, when the theme changes, then the look of the bike changes. If you noticed, the bikes that we build are always different. So, it always makes sense because we’re not doing the same thing over and over. A lot of custom builders will come up with a look and just repeat that look through their whole career. But because we build theme bikes, it’s ever-changing. So for us, it makes a lot of sense.
What are the main differences between your style and your father’s style?
Paul Jr: I would say that we both build theme bikes because I started out there, being the lead designer. And then, when I – when we separated ways at the end of 2008, the style came with me and they kept doing theme bikes as well as designer there. I would say maybe I’m much more of an emotional designer. I’m a very expressive designer. I think one of the biggest differences in our process is when I build, I don’t use any drawings. I don’t have anything – any guidelines. I work strictly out of my head, from my hands onto the lift or the frame.
How do you match an owner’s style, character and habit and what’s the craziest thing you’ve done so far?
Paul Jr: OK. Well, what I try and do is I’ll take what’s important to the client – whether it be a charity, an individual with certain tastes or a corporation – I’ll take the things that are most important to them and then I’ll incorporate those things into the bike. And I do that in a way where in the end result, it looks like it was built by the individual himself, had he been able to build motorcycles. That’s always my goal. As I said earlier, I don’t use drawings.
So, the clients out there – whether it be Microsoft or Cadillac or Bill Murray, for that matter – every single one of them has trusted me implicitly with their IT or their ideas or the things that they’re fond of.
We’ve had a great success rate at exceeding expectations and it’s just kind of the way we build. I would say two of the more outstanding – more unusual, I would call them – vehicles, not even really motorcycles that I’ve done is we built these two platforms, I’ll call them, for World of Warcraft. We built them and we came up with the design. And then, they took them and reverse-engineered them.
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